I have noticed that I grind out the last 1 to 2 reps of my back squat for the last 2 to 3 sets.

Sometimes this involves doing something funky with my hips or knees, which I don't like, but I have the urge to do what it takes to finish the rep.

I know that technique is critical, so should I resist this urge and instead fail the rep? Or should I push myself and finish it?

If it makes a difference, I'm doing the SL 5x5 program.

4 Answers 4


There's acceptable "grind" and unacceptable grind, and I don't trust novices to tell the difference. Someone in your position--which I assume means, a beginner doing a novice program with an unfamiliar exercise--should not try to make this distinction oneself, but rather get a trusted coach to review your form in person, or do an online form check using video and a forum one trusts.

In general, if grinding just means a small deviation from perfect form, that can be fine. But grinding can also mean not hitting full depth, losing tightness at the bottom, "good morning-ing" the squat, tremendous "butt wink", and other significant and problematic form errors, and those aren't OK.

  • Thank you. My main problem is good morning-ing and slight knee instability. Not to the degree of knee valgus, but they shake a little bit. I think I'll prioritize form over finishing a rep.
    – pushkin
    Apr 22, 2016 at 21:13
  • @pushkin Both of those specific issues are ones that I put on the less-acceptable side of the form-deviation spectrum. Sounds like you're making the right call. Apr 23, 2016 at 6:51

Injuries will hinder your progress more than lifting lighter.

Focus on technique if you want long term gains.

  • 1
    I agree with your answer, but we try to have "high quality" answers on here where statements are backed up with evidence. Otherwise it makes it too easy for bro-science to invade and spread.
    – Eric
    Apr 22, 2016 at 20:31

Have a dive through the 5x5 website squat page here

In summary, you don't count reps with bad form. If you complete a set of 5 with 1 bad form rep then you only record 4 for that set. This will cause you to repeat the same weight or de-load next session (automatically if you are using the app).


That depends on your goals. For pure strength you should avoid going to failure or doing grinders, as soon as technique gets bad, stop there ex usually let 2 reps in the tank.

For building some mass you can go to failure and should more then less and I would use some slightly lighter weight not to injure myself. You can imagine that your form will suffer short before failure ...

Running something like SL5X5 it is recommended to having a technique and strength related focus... style of training. As for pure mass building there are better protocols.

Hope that helps.

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